Shelf Life Community Bookstore celebrates one year of business

NILES — After spending a day of heavy lifting, shuffling shelves and re-arranging things, April Gargis, the manager at Shelf Life Community Bookstore, was proud to show off the new displays for books.

When Niles DDA Main Street Director Lisa Croteau walked through the front door Thursday, she saw the newly revamped store for the first time.

“Holy cannoli. It’s beautiful,” Croteau said. “Wow.”

In addition to getting a new makeover, the bookstore also celebrated one year in business this week at 223 N. Fourth St.

While the shelves stocked with books might suggest otherwise, Shelf Life is not just an average bookstore. The store is part of Better World Books, and is operated by the Niles DDA Main Street.

The books that fill the shelves are donated by the community, library or other organizations. Proceeds from the store, after expenses, support the Niles DDA Main Street. Ten percent of sales are also donatedthe Niles District Library.

According to Croteau, total sales from 2017 were $10,572.50. Of that total, after expenses,  $973.61 supported the library.  The net profit earned was $4,127.38, which helped to support Niles Main Street events, such as the Hunter Ice Festival.

Gargis said this year they are hoping to continue to spread the word about the bookstore.

“A lot of people, when they come in for the first time say, ‘I had no idea you were here,’” Gargis said. “So we have been working really hard to just kind of get the word out.”

The store was open during the Hunter Ice Festival last weekend, and Gargis said she hopes to see those customers return with friends in tow.

Other changes are also on the horizon. In the next couple of months, the bookstore is planning to begin a mug club in partnership with Top Heavy and Brew Ha Ha coffee shops. Croteau said they are still working out the details for the club, but hope to implement it within the next couple of months.

Additionally, Gargis said she is considering the possibility of offering opportunities like free language classes at the bookstore.

The business offers a wide range and rotating selection of books. There is a designated room for children’s books, nonfiction and fiction books. Customers can also find romance novels, education, reference and law books. Books cost between 50 cents and $3.

“You would be surprised. We have everything,” Gargis said. “Not just old books. A lot of people bring in new books. Better World Books also donates new books. You are pretty much guaranteed to find something here.”

This year, Croteau said they plan to add collector’s books to the selection.

Croteau credits Al Casperson for recognizing the need for a bookstore in the community and helping to get the project started.

Casperson is a former bookstore owner. His store A. Casperson Books closed in November 2015.

Seeing a need to offer Niles a local bookstore and an opportunity to raise funds for Niles Main Street and the local library, Croteau said they jumped at the chance to rent the space downtown Casperson helped by building some additional shelving.

The formerly vacant space used to serve as a law office and therefore had ample shelving ideal for a bookstore, Croteau said.

Gargis started managing the bookstore as a volunteer about two weeks ago. She said she was drawn to the cause to help Niles.

Additionally, she thought she could lend her expertise from her background managing retail stores for 14 years.

Gargis said the bookstore is currently seeking volunteers to help out at the store. For those who do not have the time to volunteer, Gargis encouraged them to support the bookstore by browsing the shelves or donating their unused books.

Volunteers at the bookstore also receive one free book for every hour that they volunteer there. Those interested in volunteering are advised to contact the store via Facebook.

The next time people attend a Niles Main Street festival, they can thank a local book lover for contributing.

“We could not have done this without the community,” Gargis said.

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